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December 2009 Hot News

14 December 2009

Vandoren Holiday Celebration in New York - 14 December 2009

New York City USA

     An annual event this season from Vandoren to all its customers and professionals convened with a 6 hour party at the USA New York Headquarters with key Officers and movers in attendance including Artist Director David Gould, and DANSR President Michael Skinner who came in from Chicago.  DANSR is the US distributor for Vandoren France.  As the afternoon progressed, several artists from the New York area visited and partied with fellow colleagues, many of whom were noted artists from the Classical and Jazz scene.  Later that evening there was that VandoJam which is a jam set of sessions of players who come to make music informally which lasts about 4 hours next door at a restaurant, pub.  The event is a remarkable venue to meet players and catch up on the year's activities and have a great social time.  The who's who in the music field attend for this very reason.

Concertino in Stile Jazz for Klarinette and String Orchestra, performed by Ulrich Mehlhart, Composer Antonio Fraioli, and Conductor Uwe Krause

Antonio Fraioli Master Classes at the Haydn Konservatorium in Eisenstadt, Austria 9 - 11 December 2009

9 - 13 December 2009

Master Classes with Antonio Fraioli  and Concertino im Stile Jazz for Klarinette and String Orchestra

Eisenstadt, Austria and Bad Nauheim, Germany

        On tour giving Classes at the Josef Haydn Konservatorium in Eisenstadt, Austria, Clarinetist and Composer Antonio Fraioli has been active and proactive in performance and in Bad Nauheim, outside of Frankfurt am Main, Germany, a performance of his own work - Concertino in Stile Jazz for Klarinette and String Orchestra, performed by noted Soloist and Solo Klarinettist in the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra Ulrich Mehlhart.  Program and photos tell this story and brings recognition for this unknown work and its performance 13 December.


Major Artist Alessandro Carbonare in Recital

5 - 7 December 2009

Spanish National Clarinet Congress

Madrid, Spain

Report by Nancy Knight

          He invited me to your national clarinet congress at the Real Conservatorio Superior de Musica de Madrid which was on December 5 to 7, 2009. I was told that the music school is over 500 years old thus; it must have been founded at the same time as your lovely capital. Pedro’s brilliant reconstruction of 19th century Spanish music makes him a national treasure. Besides being a valuable musicologist, he’s also a wonderful performer & I assume teacher too. His fundamental books which make use of the low C extension of some clarinets, two of which I own, are the finest in the world. Although I’m neither a professional clarinetist nor a college student & do not like being called an amateur, I care very much about the clarinet & music in general.

         Upon my arrival, I was kindly greeted by your secretary Victor Fernandez the very first morning just as things were about to begin. During the inaugural event, the piece by Osvaldo Golijov “The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind” as performed by Jose Luis Estelles captured my thoughts. The ghost tones added mystery in a very sensitive way. They seemed to imitate a human-voice that was struggling to be heard. I can relate. If he’s interested in recording it, I’d like to buy it. It might not be something that I could learn to play myself but, I’d like to ponder more on what was the internal message being portrayed. That first day, I especially enjoyed the sound of David Mora on clarinet with strings. I own an old violin at which I am now starting beginning lessons. Strings are seldom taught in public schools where I come from. I noticed some very pretty sounds coming from custom bells & barrels. I just got some at the ICA from Gao Royal. They really do make a difference in a good way!

That afternoon, a relatively large group of about twenty individuals who obviously all love the clarinet regardless of age & ability, ranging from about six to sixty, played together. They were the Aula de Clarinets del Conservatorio Teresa Berganza as directed by Chema Garcia Portela. It was mostly improvisational but it wasn’t just random noise. It was inspirational too. I recently tried to learn to play with some degree of improvational on my clarinet. I badly failed. Here, everyone worked nicely to be one. Nobody was left out. I would love to witness their rehearsals & try to catch the something special that they were representing.

            Lastly that afternoon, Pedro Rubio gave his wonderful presentation about his priceless, timeless work along with Ana Benavides on piano. A nice young gentleman & bass clarinetist, Hector Abella Martin translated some of what Pedro was saying to me. I wish that I knew more of what was being said. I could have listened to Pedro all day. If there’s a recording available, can you sent it to me? I purchased a few more of Pedro’s works. Maybe I could have gotten him to let me try to demonstrate one of his pieces. If I would have succeeded, it would have been my second Bb solo in my life. (My first solo was at the Belgium Clarinet Academy three years ago.)

            That evening David Minetti on clarinet with Alvaro Guijarre on piano gave a performance which included how advance tonguing techniques and multi-phonics can be played gently yet with power. Their dynamics were especially commendable. Listening to them as pair, reminded me to be great musicians, it requires characteristics which combine both genders. How can some great orchestras still be mostly one?

            The next duo or trio was that of Radovan Cavallin and Justo Sanz on clarinets, with Sanz also on basset horn and Isabel Hernandez on piano. Their great chemistry allowed them to relate well with one another. Isabel is one of those super accompanists who I’ll bet everyone wants to play with. She had fire that took the lead & knew when to hold back to let the clarinets come through. One piece was a pasodoble, which reminded me of a concert band piece that had an awesome alto clarinet part, I especially loved it. I liked all of their pieces very much. I could have listened more to them & would buy their recordings. I was too shy to speak to Radovan who went with me to the bank to get money for my new Viotto mouthpieces which I got on the last day. I hope he’s enjoying his as much as I’m enjoying mine.

             That evening there was a group from Paris consisting of a clarinet string quintet and soprano voice & piano with Florian Popa on clarinet.  They performed two pieces. They were very easy to listen too and refreshing. It was poetic. The pieces were new to me. One was by Dominik Maican & the other was by Felix Sierra. I was trying to figure out what kind of clarinet Popa was playing with its gold keys & very black wood. Have I seen & heard such before?

            The next day, I slept in. So, I missed the first event. I did hear & enjoy the work of Luis Merino Ruda’s character piece. He made me believe that he was Dr. Jekyll. Besides being very attractive, he took cues well from a man who I believe was the composer of this piece who controlled an audio machine, Jesus Aranda. So, if he’s single, girls beware!

            My new friend Hector Abella Martin performed a couple pieces by American composer Michael Lowenstern. He played with a recording. It made for a most interesting bass clarinet duet. I like hearing works which I’ll probably never play. I was once disappointed when Lowenstern canceled an event that I was going too.

            Following his performance there was a very nice Brahms trio with Daniel Broncano on clarinet & and a very special performance that combined clarinet with spoken poetry by Monica Campillo on clarinet & Emilio Gonzalez on piano. She sweetly featured five songs of Franz Schubert, whose graveside I visited at dusk the evening before the first snowfall in Vienna a couple years ago. I wish that I could understand more of her carefully spoken words & wonder if she’d like to share.

            That afternoon, Josep Fuster overwhelmed me with pure grace on clarinet & again Isabel was on piano. His pieces were among the most technical, standard advance pieces out there but he added his own thing too. His sound & control was certainly among the best in the world. I liked everything he played very much & especially the piece by a lady composer Zulema de La Cruz, “Evocazione Rossiniana” which is on one of the two recordings of his that I bought, that I’d recommend others to buy. I think he was using Gao Royal bells & barrels too.

            Next performance was by Duo Hevans of Henri Bok on bass clarinet & Eleri Ann Evans on saxophone from Holland. Their style & technique is unique to them. They have perhaps the best chemistry of any such duet in the world. They nicely combine humor with analytical thinking. They connect well between themselves & with the audience. They have a lot of depth at what they do. I enjoyed them even more than the first time I heard them when I went to the first ICA conference that I attended in Kansas City, Missouri, the year before. I was delighted to find them here and I did buy their recordings. I wouldn’t mind hearing more of them again.

             My mother came with me to hear the final performances that night which consisted of two great, very different acts. The first was by the clarinet quartet out of Lisbon, which included a percussionist. Based on there performance here, which was very funny & engaging with a show-stopping entry, I forgive any band feelings that I was left with from the Portugese ICA. In fact, their spirit of playfulness left me realizing we can’t take things seriously all of the time.

            The evening was capped off by the magic of Alessandro Carbonare on clarinet & Nonolda Braconi on piano. Recently I had attended a lecture by one of the young Michigan professors who presented his method book. I hadn’t known Carbonare before.

He’s way beyond any method. His advance techniques were true mastery. Although I didn’t talk to him, his eyes seemed to contain a humble spirit which I like. He’s king! I was sad not to find any of his recordings or his book while there. I’d go any where in the world to hear him play again. I found a new favorite clarinetist of our time.

            On the third day, I went off to observe a contest. I took the advice to go to Modalidad A. Six young adults, two ladies & four men all performed Abel Moreno’s “Cuatro Peguenas Piezas” with Isabel Hernandez on piano. The piece exhibited a very high degree of difficulty. It was very interesting to listen too. Following the required piece, they all had to play an unaccompanied piece of their choosing. The first young lady, played a piece, I think by Donizetti. I really liked her clear tone & maturity. She combined serious power with a gentle internal reflectiveness. She had a lot of courage & took extra risks & in my opinion always won. The next two played Stravinsky’s “Three Pieces”. I think the one was playing Toscas. He had a very nice sound. His dynamics were super! After the third player, I wrote in my notes that this is too close to call. I don’t know how they were being judged but I wouldn’t want to be one. The next to last performer, in my opinion deserves special mention. She put on a skit with her clarinet which I’ll long remember. She dressed I think as jester. She related well with the audience. It was uniquely hers. I don’t know if they gave out multiple awards but I do know that the third contestant won. His name was Sergio Rodrigo from Valencia. He was very deserving. In Modalidad B, there were four contestants. They played Paulino Marti’s “Fantasia”. First prize there went to Nerea Cisneros from Madrid. I enjoyed both of their encore performances that afternoon. They obviously have very good, devoted teachers.

            Next a very pretty chamber group Trio da Ponte which included two clarinets, a bassoon, and two voices performed Mozart. It was a breath of fresh air. Something truly healing exists within Mozart’s music when it’s performed well which they certainly did. I was relaxed.

            That afternoon, the congress was wrapped up by two very different, yet highly creative clarinet ensembles. The first was Cuareto Casare. They had a nice easy listening contemporary style which combined Latino fun with a touch of Parisian class. It was quite serious but also light hearted at the same time. Their balance was superb. They were quiet & gentle. I would have liked to have heard more from them but if there was one problem at this event, time was always going to fast. Then, the real party began with the Clarcusion Band leading the way. They obviously and deservingly had a group of devoted fans. It was loud and more improvisational. It wasn’t just pure music. It was rather corrupt but in a very good way. For those of us who didn’t get up and dance with some of their devoted followers, we probably wanted too & were very glad to see them do it. Check out my photo (#142). It was beyond crazy! None of us wanted this to end.

In summary, they win; everyone won!

            After all of the musical action, I paused quickly for photographs with myself and the president of the congress, P. Justo Sanz Hermida and with Pedro. I hope they know that everyone did well. I was glad to have been there. I certainly had a great time. I got my money’s worth & hope to come again. If there had been a clarinet choir open to everyone to participate that would have made things still better at least for me.

            Afterwards, it was on to Madrid’s Christmas markets in their Plaza Mayor. That evening, I enjoyed the contemporary art museum the Reina Sofia that was adjacent to the music school. They do have a couple large auditoriums there which could be used for the ICA should Madrid & their royal music school be willing to host a conference. I’d help! That night I laid awake thinking about what makes a good clarinet teacher as well as what kind of musical events are good for me. This one worked. I hope to still find others and to find my way back someday soon to Madrid. CHEERS!


1 December 2009

  Special Celebration Concert honoring the 90th Birthday of Legend Clarinetist and Teacher Kalmen Opperman  held at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York

New York City USA


            A breathtaking emotional evening saw this incredible gathering of Clarinetists onstage and offstage honoring the incredible performance and teaching career of this star icon of the instrument.  As the galleried programs above indicate, the talent range of accomplishment was far reaching, not only Clarinetists honored him, but Double Reed players as well, as Opperman produced precision Reed tools that have been in wide use by both types of players.  Clarinetists as far as California came, and star icons in the Clarinet world such as Stanley Drucker of the New York Philharmonic and Ricardo Morales of the Philadelphia Orchestra sat in the same row witnessing this performance.  This only scratches the surface as players of note were all over this sold out hall this night.  It was an historic evening, just like the Drucker Copland performance last June.  Star Clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, a student and colleague for many years, organized this event to honor Opperman's 90th, and was a Master of Ceremonies explaining many facets of Kal's history with past students and ideas.  Several performers gave emotional tributes and interfaced with Opperman during performances.  A Clarinet Choir of 6 star players performed with Opperman conducting.  

           A super reception was held nearby after the concert lasting several hours with reunion joy amongst attendees meeting and giving Mr Opperman his birthday party.    The organization work for this event was extensive and almost panicking hoping for a gathering of former students, where emails were sent to those who would pass on the message.  Upon receiving this information, one month before this event, WKA put out an alert on several pages and the results have worked with a sold out house.  Credit for this success goes to John Haman and Richard Stotzman in making this a major Clarinet bonanza.


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                                                                                                      Revised: January 23, 2010